It's a common complaint: You are 6 weeks postpartum, and are proud of yourself for, (A) being out of the house and (B) having showered and applied makeup. As you are strutting happily along, babe in tow, you eventually run into some idiot who says, "So, when are you due?"
This situation happens to us all, and my previous coping strategy was to simply bury the incident deep in my brain, never to be thought of again. But then one of our readers left the following comment:
I have several tops like these [NOTE: she's referring to the floaty tops featured in our Postpartum Belly Hiding Tops post] that I wore after giving birth in May, and I was so disappointed and embarrassed when people asked me if I was pregnant. I wanted to scream...hey, not everyone looks like Heidi Klum six weeks postpartum. But then I thought maybe it also had to do with the loose floaty tops I was wearing. Any suggestions for this problem? I'm pregnant again and want to AVOID this situation in the future!
Sigh. It's best to face this situation head-on. So, is there anything we can do to avoid looking pregnant after we've given birth?
The short answer is: No. Not really. Our bodies just went through 9 months of crazy changes - it's not going to be undone overnight. One O/B told me to think about it this way: It takes 9 months for your body to get that big, it's probably going to take another 9 months for your body to go back to normal. At least. And as someone who got scary-big (click link then scroll down for a pic), I get it.
There are, however, a few strategies worth trying:
While I know that this silhouette can be very maternity-top, you can always rein in the fabric with a banded bottom, like Forever 21's Gale Gathered Front Tunic, pictured at left. We also pictured a several of these types of tops in our first and second Hide the Postpartum Pooch posts, if you need more ideas. Also, many maternity shirts have banded bottoms, so if you are having trouble finding this style, try the maternity department. NOTE: I have a few cute maternity tops that I wear, pregnant or not. If it's cute, it's cute.
Show some cleavage.
Typically, postpartum boobs are still huge, whether you are nursing or not. And if you are nursing, well...they are epic. Nothing makes you look bigger than big boobs, all covered up in fabric. So choose a deep v-neck, cowl, or a large scoop neck. Anything that shows some cleavage. Again, Forever21's Gale Gathered Front Tunic, pictured, does a nice job of both camouflaging the pooch and showing some cleavage.
Look for patterns that are a bit busy and asymmetrical. I know that sounds horrible. Admittedly, it's hard, but not impossible, to find busy, asymmetrical patterns that are cute. The goal is distraction.
Florals are almost always huge for Spring, and I'm loving Forever 21's Tropical Floral Top, pictured at right. It has the banded bottom, low neckline, and a busy, asymmetrical pattern to disguise a postpartum pooch. Wow - it hits all three strategies. So if the sight of your fantastic cleavage isn't enough to draw the eye up, all of that floral goin' on will nicely camouflage the pooch.
I know you are thinking, WHAT????? But consider this: your postpartum pooch is very, very soft. It's really just extra skin and lots of...jelly-like stuff. Ugh. But the good news is that it squishes down quite a bit. Zipping it up into a pair of high-waisted jeans helps keep it under control, and gives you a bit of support that will actually feel good 6 weeks postpartum. Really. You want the high waist tight, but not so tight you can't breathe.
These jeans are a bonus for c-section girls: many low-waisted jeans can irritate your very sensitive scar. High-waisted jeans were the only thing I could wear for months (besides sweatpants, obviously), and to this day, there are times when my scar still gets irritated and I pull them back out. Ahhhh....relief.
Just because you have high-waisted jeans doesn't mean you need to show off the high waist until you are ready (read: have lost the jelly-belly). Just pull tops down over the high waist. No one will be the wiser. Since high-waists have been around a while (the fashion mags seem to love/hate them every 6 months), they are currently really easy to find, and often on sale. Personally, I really liked Seven For All Mankind's High Waist Bootcut Jean, $196 at shopbop.com.
Try the Tupler Exercises
WIth many pregnancies,the outmost halves of the abdominal muscles seperate a bit, making it hard for you to regain your pre-baby belly. Doing the right kind of abdominal exercises mays help. Julie Tupler, RN developed an exercise (the Tupler Technique) that can help women pull these muscles back together. You can purchase her book, Lose the Mummy Tummy or DVD version on Amazon, , but for a quick synopsis of just the exercise, go to Fit Pregnancy's article.
Wrap Up the Belly
Julie Tupler recommends wrapping your belly in her Tupler Diastais Rehab Splint, $35 (pictured at right), or you could always try the Belly Bandit Bamboo, $66 (pictured at left). The Tupler Splint helps target the the separated muscles specifically, while the Belly Bandit helps reduce uterine swelling, water retention and offers back support.
For an even more affordable approximation, you can always try a simple Ace Bandage. Ask the hospital for one before you leave - they'll give you one for free. I wore mind daily for several weeks. I don't know if it reduced uterine swelling or helped with my diastais, but I do know it made life much more bearable, helped support my aching body, and hid the pooch a bit. Next time around I might try the Belly Bandit. It fits nice and low, and looks like a c-section girl's best friend.
So hopefully this will help avoid any awkward, "Are you STILL pregnant? Oops - there's the baby!" situations in the future. But probably not. Just remember: pooch or not, your baby is pretty darn sure you are the most gorgeous thing he (or she) has ever seen.